Archive

April 1st, 2016

A speedy trial with slow sentencing isn't justice

    The Constitution grants people accused of crimes the right to a speedy and public trial. Does that include a right to speedy sentencing after conviction? The Supreme Court takes up that question on Monday in Betterman v. Montana, the case of a defendant who had to wait 14 months in a county jail to be sentenced after pleading guilty. Then the court refused to include that period as time served.

    What's most remarkable about the case is that not only Montana but also the federal government maintain that the speedy-trial right doesn't include sentencing at all. The court has never said so before - although to be fair, it also hasn't said that sentencing is part of the trial either.

    Start with the basic rationale for the right. The origins of the phrase contained in the Sixth Amendment go back to the 17th-century common-law judge and scholar Sir Edward Coke, who wrote in his monumental treatise, "Institutes of the Lawes of England," that the common law courts "have not suffered the prisoner to be long detained, but . . . have given the prisoner full and speedy justice."

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March 30th

'Trumpism': A new blue-collar conservatism

    A pivotal debate has broken out in conservative ranks in the age of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. Call it "the Trumpists vs. the anti-Trumpists."

    The anti-Trumpists, including the editors of William F. Buckley's seminal National Review magazine, don't think he's a true conservative. Their free-market approaches differ sharply from Trump on such issues as trade, immigration, outsourcing and the protection of Social Security and Medicare, among other middle-class entitlements.

    Under the headline "Against Trump," the magazine ran a "symposium" of 22 contributions by conservative thinkers in January that challenged Trump's brand of conservatism.

    Trump, in his usual fashion with critics, dismissed the magazine as "a dying paper," a diagnosis that its editors would call wildly exaggerated, even as Trump's primary victories continued to mount.

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Arizona's voting rights fire bell

    It's bad enough that an outrage was perpetrated last week against the voters of Maricopa County, Arizona. It would be far worse if we ignore the warning that the disenfranchisement of thousands of its citizens offers our nation. In November, one of the most contentious campaigns in our history could end in a catastrophe for our democracy.

    A major culprit would be the United States Supreme Court, and specifically the conservative majority that gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

    The facts of what happened in Arizona's presidential primary are gradually penetrating the nation's consciousness. In a move rationalized as an attempt to save money, officials of Maricopa County, the state's most populous, cut the number of polling places by 70 percent, from 200 in the last presidential election to 60 this time around.

    Maricopa includes Phoenix, the state's largest city, which happens to have a non-white majority and is a Democratic island in an otherwise Republican county.

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Trade, Labor, And Politics

    There’s a lot of things about the 2016 election that nobody saw coming, and one of them is that international trade policy is likely to be a major issue in the presidential campaign. What’s more, the positions of the parties will be the reverse of what you might have expected: Republicans, who claim to stand for free markets, are likely to nominate a crude protectionist, leaving Democrats, with their skepticism about untrammeled markets, as the de facto defenders of relatively open trade.

    But this isn’t as peculiar a development as it seems. Rhetorical claims aside, Republicans have long tended in practice to be more protectionist than Democrats. And there’s a reason for that difference. It’s true that globalization puts downward pressure on the wages of many workers — but progressives can offer a variety of responses to that pressure, whereas on the right, protectionism is all they’ve got.

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Why US leadership matters

    What would the world look like today if Harry Truman or Dwight Eisenhower had shared the foreign policy inclinations of Barack Obama or, far more dangerous, Donald Trump?

    Obama has presided over an experiment in withdrawal from the Middle East, a region that the United States had long considered vital. Trump would accelerate the withdrawal, and make it global, because "we're a poor country now," as he told The Post's editorial board last week.

    Circumstances have forced Obama to undo or reverse aspects of his experiment, but at one point it included pulling all U.S. troops from Iraq, with plans to do the same in Afghanistan; abandoning Libya after intervening to depose its dictator; tepid support for the democracy movement that emerged in the Arab Spring; and a refusal to help those fighting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose overthrow Obama said he favored.

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March 29th

Lose With Cruz: A Love Story

    It was clear to me weeks ago, even before Marco Rubio threw in the towel, that the GOP was getting ready to cuddle with Ted Cruz.

    But I never expected a love quite like this to bloom.

    It’s a singularly tortured love, one that grits its teeth, girds its loins and pines for a contested convention.

    It’s hate worn down into resignation, disgust repurposed as calculation. Stopping a ludicrous billionaire means submitting to a loathsome senator. And so they submit, one chastened and aghast Republican leader after another, murmuring sweet nothings about Cruz that are really sour somethings about Donald Trump.

    Will they still respect themselves in the morning?

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5 myths about Cuba

    President Barack Obama's historic trip to Cuba this past week returned U.S. and world attention to the small Caribbean island of 11 million people and the long, curious history between it and the United States. It's hard to think of a similarly sized country that has had such a memorable, tumultuous, often romantic hold on U.S. history and imagination. That narrative encapsulates a welter of assumptions - some propagated by the 1959 revolution, others by the Cuban diaspora and the rest by Americans who haven't seen Cuba up close in more than half a century. Here are some of those myths.

 

    1. Cuba's free health-care system is great.

    In a 2014 visit to Cuba, the director general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, declared Cuba's health-care system a model for the world: "This is the way to go," she said. And U.S. documentarian-provocateur Michael Moore, in his movie "Sicko," favorably contrasted Cuba's system with the expensive, complicated American arrangement.

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Virginia's needed 'Moneyball' moment

    Virginia's criminal-justice system desperately needs a Billy Beane "Moneyball" moment.

    For anyone who missed the Michael Lewis bestseller or didn't catch the Oscar-nominated movie, Beane was the Oakland Athletics general manager who brought empirical analysis to the practice of recruiting talent and building professional baseball teams. Beane eschewed the traditional method of management based on hunches and stagnant aphorisms - basically consulting an old man in the stands with binoculars following his gut - in favor of an objective, statistical approach. After facing intense resistance to his ideas, Beane's team thrived despite having a smaller payroll than most competitors.

    Since then, the power of information has become manifest. Data and analysis have supplanted intangibles and intuition in a series of industries.

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Though battered for seven years, Michelle Obama doesn't show the bruises

    I recently attended a White House event that featured the cast of the Broadway hit "Hamilton." But it was the host for the occasion who was most impressive: first lady Michelle Obama, still standing tall, chin up, despite nearly eight years of enduring the kind of crudities that the wives of some of the current presidential candidates are starting to get a taste of.

    Personal insults in politics are certainly nothing new, and even first ladies have long been regarded as fair game. But racial contempt for the Obamas and the development of so many new ways to express it resulted in an unprecedented barrage of ugliness toward her.

    In a speech to graduates at Tuskegee University in Alabama last year, she recalled having "a lot of sleepless nights . . . fearing how my girls would feel if they found out what some people were saying about their mom."

    But it's not just uncivil discourse that poisons the political environment.

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Trump-Cruz police state exists. It's called France.

    Imagine if Ted Cruz or Donald Trump proposed a policy to monitor thousands of Muslim citizens even if they had no specific ties to terrorist groups. Then, for good measure, they called for a new law to allow the police to search the homes of suspected terrorists without a warrant and to place terror suspects under house arrest without a court order.

    Sounds like a nightmare. One can imagine the indignation. Pundits and politicians of good conscience would intone against the politics of fear. Some on the right would respond that political correctness should not be a barrier to counterterrorism.

    But what I have just described is not a Republican sound bite. Rather, it is the current counterterrorism posture of France. Since the attacks in Paris last November, the socialist government of President Francois Hollande has placed his country under a state of emergency.

    France's national guard has been deployed to protect sensitive religious sites and other "soft targets." The country of Voltaire, Diderot and Camus is in 2016 the police state that critics warn Cruz or Trump would bring about if given the chance.

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